Traveling in foreign lands is one of the most wonderful experiences available to us as human beings.
Whether our purpose is to explore new cultures, take in breathtaking scenery, see exotic wildlife or experience some new adrenalin pumping adventure, most of us likely feel we could spend our entire lives just moving around from one country to the next. There are, of course, two serious inhibiting factors to such a lifestyle, namely, time and expense.
What about working and earning money as you travel? The premise is simple. Travel to a place and, while you are there, get a job and earn enough money to both keep you in that place and also cover your travel costs to the next place. Simple, right? Now you really can travel indefinitely and see all those wonderful places without fear of running out of money. Or not!
There are many pitfalls when you try to make money while traveling abroad but, fortunately, there is a solution, as I will explain.
My wife (Colette) and I began to travel seriously in 1990. Before then we had made some wonderful trips abroad but these were simply vacations financed by my work as a lawyer in London. Now we wanted more and so I gave up my law partnership and we were off.
Over the next, nearly, thirty years we traveled and worked extensively throughout the Caribbean and Pacific Islands, Central America, and South America.
We have worked as scuba instructors, personal trainers, aerobics and water aerobics instructors, dive shop managers, massage therapists, hotel managers, house sitters, pet sitters, water sports managers, dog trainers, and aestheticians. I even did a stint working as a lawyer in the Turks and Caicos Islands. And, yes, we were fully qualified, and certified, to do all those things!
The one common factor with all these jobs is that they are physical in nature, in some cases extremely physical. When we began in 1990 the option to work online was simply not available and that option would not become available, at least not in any viable way, for another fifteen years. If it had been, I would like to think we would have jumped at it.
Don’t get me wrong, we have had a great time, and have absolutely no regrets, but we have also encountered some serious problems along the way, including nearly starving to death in the Hawaiian Islands and being unceremoniously dumped (by the cruise ship we were working on) in Antigua with only a few dollars in our pockets.
So, What’s the Problem with Getting a Physical Job?
First, let me say I find nothing inherently wrong with doing a physical job while traveling. It’s just that there are so many issues that are going to come up repeatedly as you move around that, at some point, you are likely going to question whether all the hassle is overshadowing the joy of travel. These are the potential issues you should be most aware of;
- You will need to find a new job each time you move to another location. Depending on your length of stay, and accumulated funds, this may not be necessary, literally, for every move you make but it is going to come up repeatedly and it can be a huge hassle. Jobs are not always easy to come by and you simply cannot assume that you are going to find one when you really need it. Then what do you do?
- Local labor rules and regulations. Quite apart from possible visa issues (see below) local labor rules and regulations will sometimes say that certain specified areas of work can only be done by citizens of the country you are in. This can make finding a job even more difficult.
- Long hours. Most casual jobs involve really long hours. You are there to experience the country but if you are working over 60% of your waking day, that doesn’t leave much time for sightseeing. Sure, you may have a day or two off each week but is that really enough?
- Low Pay. It’s a universal truth that casual jobs are very low paid, which means you will likely have to work even longer hours just to make ends meet.
- Time commitment. Many employers will expect you to commit to staying at the job for a minimum time, whether it be days, weeks or months. Looking at it from their point of view, and particularly if there is any on-the-job training involved, this is not necessarily unreasonable but, even if the commitment seems reasonable to you at the outset, you immediately lose the element of flexibility in your travel arrangements.
- It’s (typically) very hard work! Sure you can fall lucky and land a cushy desk job, but you are far more likely to end up busking tables, washing dishes or doing some other manual work that involves a lot of physical effort, not to mention long hours. Case in point. For a number of years, Colette and I worked as scuba instructors/divemasters in some of the most beautiful places in the world, including Hawaii, Palau, and St. Lucia. Now, to the uninitiated, that is going to conjure up some wonderful thoughts of living in paradise and then just taking a few people diving once or twice each day, five or six days each week. WRONG! Sure we would go diving but we also had to clean and repair scuba equipment, clean the dive shop, scrub the decks and hulls of the dive boats, prepare the food for the daily dive trips, pump scuba tanks and load them onto the dive boat at the beginning of the day and take them off at the end. And, at the end of the day, we had the pleasure of walking the three miles home because the job was so poorly paid we couldn’t afford to run a vehicle, much less buy one in the first place. It was very hard work!
- Immigration. For me, this is the big one! Most countries are happy to give you a tourist visa for between one and six months, sometimes even longer, and these can invariably be extended with very little effort. However, it’s usually a whole different ball game if you want a visa that allows you to work, and the vast majority of countries will require you to have such a visa, even for short-term, temporary jobs. Obtaining a work visa is, almost universally, a frustrating, time-consuming and, sometimes, expensive business and which is why many people are tempted to get by without one. In case you are so tempted, just bear in mind, immigration police are notoriously unforgiving if you are caught!
And Why is Working Online so Much Better?
The whole object of working while you travel is that it allows you to visit and enjoy (in your own way) multiple locations and/or countries over an extended period of time. But what’s the point if, as a result of that work you either don’t have the time or energy, to actually get out and see the place you are visiting?
Working online avoids almost all of the problems inherent in working a physical job and thus allows you to do what you came to do, namely explore and have fun. Here’s how;
- No having to repeatedly look for a new job every time you change location. Whatever work you are doing online can be done from anywhere in the world, provided you have an internet connection. Simply close your computer as you leave one location, open in when you arrive at your new location and continue where you left off.
- You control the hours you work. This is not to suggest that you will inherently work fewer hours online than in a physical job (although you might) but that you control when you work those hours. This gives you huge flexibility both in your day-to-day activities and your travel planning generally.
- It’s not physically demanding. At worst you are working on a sofa or at a desk and at best on a hammock on your balcony (if that’s your thing) but, either way, working online is definitely not so physically demanding as most of the physical jobs you would otherwise be doing. When you finish you are going to be much better able to enjoy your non-working time.
- A regular flow of income. The actual income you make will, of course, depend on the nature of your online work, how many hours you put in, and how good you are at it, but you won’t have the same repeated income interruptions you will experience as you go from one physical job to the next. Also, as you travel there will undoubtedly be numerous stops where it is just not feasible to start a physical job. This is not an issue if you are working online.
- No visa issues. Remember how I explained previously how difficult it can be obtaining a visa that allows you to work? This is simply not an issue if you work online. Quite apart from the fact that it would be practically impossible for the local authorities to know that you are working anyway, it wouldn’t make a difference even if they did. This is because so many countries don’t consider working online to be an activity that requires a work visa unless you are deriving your income directly from sources within that country.
Okay, so what Kind of Things Can I Do Online?
There are so many (legitimate) ways to make money online it would be practically impossible to list them here. The recommendations I make below are online activities that are or can be, directly related to travel and/or require minimal resources when you are on the road. I have also eliminated any activities that would require a more strict time schedule, thus reducing flexibility for travel.
For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, affiliate marketing is where one person (the affiliate) promotes the products of another (the merchant), typically on the affiliate’s website, and when a third person (the customer) purchases one of those products from the merchant the affiliate receives a commission.
In this scenario you, the reader, would be the affiliate. You would attract traffic (potential customers) to your website through posts related to the products you are promoting. When the customer decides to buy the product they click on a link in the post which takes them directly to the merchant’s website where they complete the purchase. That link contains a special code, unique to the affiliate, so the merchant knows who was responsible for the sale and pays the affiliate accordingly.
The amount the affiliate receives from the merchant can vary between 2% – 10% of the sale price for physical products and up to 75% for digital products.
Because the entire process is completed online and requires only a computer and internet connection, affiliate marketing is a great way to finance your travel. It does require ongoing work, mainly in the form of writing posts for your website (to keep the traffic coming), but you set your own schedule and therefore achieve maximum flexibility with your travel arrangements.
Naturally, it is going to take time to attract traffic to your website so you would need to have your affiliate marketing business organized and income-producing before you set off on your travels.
For more information on affiliate marketing, see my post Affiliate Marketing for Retirees.
Write a Travel Blog
This is really a no-brainer as you are traveling anyway and will have endless subject matter for your blog. For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, travel blogging is the process of sharing authentic travel information, stories and tips in the form of a blog.
Many people write a travel blog simply to keep friends and family informed of their progress and, indeed, this is how travel blogging began. But it has since become so much more and there are today many, many people who not only make enough money from their blog to completely finance their travel but make a substantial income (as in six figures) from it. Once you start to get a regular flow of traffic to your website, you can begin to monetize it in a multitude of ways, including;
- Paid ads for hotel booking sites, credit card companies, travel insurance companies, etc.
- Affiliate links to accommodation sites (such as Airbnb), tour companies, flight search engines, and to travel-related products, such as backpacks, luggage, travel accessories, etc.
- Google AdSense, or other ‘pay per click’ companies, where you get paid every time someone clicks on their ad on your website.
- Sell your own, travel-related, e-books.
- Offering your own tours of locations you are particularly familiar with.
- Partnerships with known brands and tourist boards where, for cash payment, you write articles which promote those brands or destinations the tourist board wants to feature
If you are interested in starting a travel blog but would like to learn more about the process, and particularly the business side of things, you might want to consider taking a travel blogging course. If so, see Colette’s review of The Business of Travel Blogging.
Sell your Photographs
Gonna make a daring assumption here, namely that you will be taking a crazy number of photographs while you are traveling. If so, why not make some money out of them?
The easiest way to do this is to upload your photographs to one or more of the hundreds of stock photography websites that are out there, such as Shutterstock, Getty Images and Canstockphoto. They will then display your work on their website and potential purchasers will find it by searching in particular categories and using descriptive keywords. Every time someone downloads the image you earn a commission.
To learn more about stock photography read my article Getting Started with Stock Photography – a Beginners Guide
A word of warning. While it is possible to make a relatively steady income out of stock photography, it is difficult to make a full time living from it unless you are a really great photographer and/or you have been doing it for a long time. BUT, as I surmised before, you are likely taking the photographs anyway, and once you have uploaded them you have nothing else to do other than wait for the money to start coming in. Just think of it as an additional income source rather than your principal or only one.
If you enjoy writing but are not interested in writing for your own travel blog or affiliate marketing website, consider writing for others.
There is such a huge demand nowadays for freelance writing that virtually anyone who has anything above basic writing skills can make money from it. A large part of that demand is from bloggers who are looking for content for their blog. They are typically looking for articles in the 500 – 3,000-word range, which really isn’t very much. This means that, with a little research, you can even write on subjects on which you have absolutely no prior knowledge.
If the blogger is happy with your first effort there is every likelihood they will ask you to write again and may even ask for regular weekly or monthly contributions from you. With half a dozen such arrangements you now have a nice, steady income coming in.
The beauty of freelance writing is that, even though there may be a deadline (which you are free to accept or otherwise) you still have complete control of when you write within that time frame.
For more information, including how to get started, see Colette’s post Freelance Writing From Home.
There is another global platform called Fiverr which you can join for free. You set up a profile of yourself detailing your talents as a freelancer, let’s say for example, ‘creative writing’ or ‘blogging’ and the buyer comes to the website to find freelancers and this could be on a huge variety of writing topics. It is a fun and easy website to navigate with tons of information. You can read Colette’s review of Fiverr HERE.
Writing E-books and E-courses
Writing e-books and e-courses is very popular and has no set schedule so it is perfect for those traveling who would like to also make an income.
The beauty of writing an e-book or e-course is that this creates ‘passive’ income because the books and courses are (hopefully) being purchased as you sleep!
An e-book can be on just about any subject you can think of, fiction or non-fiction. The majority tend to be about topics that people know about and have some experience doing such as a favorite hobby or past-time.
They don’t need to be the length of ‘War and Peace’ either! Just 20-22 pages are enough because nowadays people like reading in small bites on specific topics so it doesn’t take too long to absorb.
If you are thinking of writing an e-book but don’t know where to start, save yourself some time scouring the internet and read Colette’s review of How to Write and Publish Your Own E-book.
If you have a subject that you feel you know well enough to teach, you can create an e-course of your own and sell it on many platforms. This is also a trend that is becoming more and more popular because people want to learn new things but they don’t want to leave their computers.
Social Media Manager
A Social Media Manager administers a company’s social media advertising and marketing.
At its core, the person doing this job needs to engage an online audience in positive and creative ways to promote a company brand on a daily basis with the ultimate goal of turning readers and fans into customers.
- Develop relevant content (articles, videos, etc) on subjects relevant to the target customer of a company
- Create and manage all content (images, videos and written content)
- Monitor and listen to users and respond to them in a ‘social’ way, while cultivating sales
- Create and manage social ad campaigns
- Stay current on social media trends to assist the growth of a company
- Compile reports for a company showing results
This job is ideal for working while traveling because it is truly online in nature and could be an attractive option for someone with a marketing/advertising or sales background who also enjoys ‘socializing’ with people.
Some Final Thoughts
My goal in writing this article was to give you some ideas on how to better enjoy your travel experience, while still financing your travels as you go. Hopefully, I have at least given you some food for thought. If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the box below and I will get back to you as quickly as possible. I would also love to hear from you if you have discovered some novel ways of financing your own travels.